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ASUS Xonar U3 USB Sound Card Review




To test ASUS' Xonar U3 I will listen to both stereo and 5.1 surround sound music, watch various movies in both stereo and 5.1 surround sound, and play various games that have surround sound audio.


Testing Setup:

  • Processor: Phenom II x6 1055T
  • CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-C12P-SE14
  • CPU Fan: Noctua NF-P14
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-890FXA-UD5
  • Memory: 2 x 4GB G.SKILL SNIPER DDR3-1333 9-9-9-24 2T
  • Video Card: XFX HD6970 2GB + BFG 8800GT (PhysX)
  • Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 750GB
  • Optical Drive: ASUS DRW-24B1ST
  • Power Supply: XFX BE 850W
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
  • Testing Headphones: AKG K701
  • Testing Sound Card: ASUS Xonar U3


Comparison Sound Cards


Having been accustomed to my [email protected] > Little Dot Mk. V > K701 setup for several years, I began testing with a rather indifferent attitude. I didn't expect the best sound, particularly considering how little there is inside, nor did I expect the worst. It is no longer, after all, the era of the ESS Maestro. Upon listening, however, I was rather surprised that it actually sounded rather good. I have quite a difficult time describing the sound of the Xonar U3, because I can't pinpoint any one particular audible sonic difference between it and ESI's [email protected] Though the DAC is only capable of directly handling audio no higher than 16-bits and 48kHz, those specifications cover the majority of what I and anyone else will listen to, and will certainly cover the needs of the casual user. Its lack of native ASIO support may also deter anyone that strains for the utmost in audio quality by means of using the clearest pathway possible, and I am in that group. Still, it will only disappoint those that manage to purchase it under the absurd pretense that it is a portable professional solution.

Games and movies are much more enjoyable thanks to the presence of the Dobly Headphone, Pro Logic IIx, and Digital Live technologies. AKG's K701 boasts one of the widest sound stages available out of any set of cans, and with the use of Dolby's tech that wide sound stage becomes so much more. These same technologies that helped Corsair's HS1 USB headset make movies much more enjoyable by making me feel more involved apply here as well, but the largest difference, mostly thanks to the K701s, is that games are incredible to play. Not only can I immerse myself visually in a game world, I can also immerse myself sonically in it. It's great fun and a huge joy that I haven't experienced in some years since I moved away from Creative's offerings with EAX. Had I been able to test the Xonar U3 in person before purchasing, using my K701s, I would have been very compelled to purchase it based solely on its gaming performance.

  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Specifications & Features
  3. Installation & Driver Setup
  4. Testing
  5. Conclusion
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